Do you know the difference between a paring knife and a boning knife? What about the best type of knife to cut a side of beef? How about the advantages of ceramic blades over stainless steel blades? If you have questions about kitchen knives, we have the answer.
Even though pocket knives get all the love in knife circles, the knives that consistently get the most use are found in the kitchen. Whether we’re chopping vegetables, slicing up cheese, or carving a turkey, kitchen knives are essential tools in food preparation, so you should pick the right knives for the job. Unfortunately, that’s not always the easiest thing to do.
Anatomy and Terminology of Kitchen Knives
Before we jump into the nitty gritty of kitchen knives, we first need to go over common terminology and basic anatomy of a kitchen knife.
|Blade:||The blade is the entire portion of the knife that consists of the edge, spine, point, etc.|
|Bolster:||This is the piece that joins the blade and the handle. It can also be used to add weight for better balance.|
|Butt:||The butt is the end of the handle.|
|Edge:||An edge is the portion of the blade that does the cutting. It might be plain or feature serrations.|
|Granton Edge:||A trademarked feature, a Granton edge is when the blade has scallops extending toward the middle of the blade. It’s said to enhance a knife’s slicing ability.|
|Handle:||The second major portion of the knife, the handle is where the knife is traditionally held.|
|Point:||This is the very tip of the knife that’s used for puncturing.|
|Rivet:||Rivets are pins that affix the handle scales to the tang.|
|Scale:||Scales are molded materials that attach to the tang and make up the handle.|
|Spine:||The spine is the typically unsharpened back of a blade|
|Tang:||A tang is the portion of a blade that extends into the handle. Tangs come in all shapes and lengths, including full tangs, partial tangs, skeletonized tangs, and more.|
Kitchen Knife Blade Material Guide
Most discussions on knife blade materials revolve around the stainless steel vs. carbon steel debate. Unfortunately, analyzing the true merit around the best blade material for kitchen knives isn’t that simple.
The truth is that there’s no such thing as stainless steel because all steels will rust under the right circumstances (except for maybe H1 steel but that’s a whole other story). Since we don’t want to needlessly complicate things for you, we’ll look at blade materials in the most common categories. If you want a thorough look at blade steels in kitchen knives, we recommend to see 8 best kitchen knives.
As we said before, there’s no such thing as true stainless steel. Even though the term “stainless steel” is constantly bandied about, the real term should be “stain-resistant steel.” But because pretty much everyone uses the term stainless steel, we will too.
For a steel to be considered a stainless steel, it must contain at least a certain amount of chromium (Cr). The number varies, but it’s generally about 10.5% or more chromium. This adds resistance to corrosion, decay, and wear. Some of the most common stainless steels in kitchen knives include VG-10, 420HC, and 440C.
Advantages: The main benefit of using stainless steel is the fact that it’s less likely to rust than a steel with higher amounts of carbon. This is particularly advantageous in kitchen knives because food and its juices will get on the knife, increasing the potential for stains. Stainless steel blades require less maintenance.
Disadvantages: While stainless steel excels in stain resistance, it suffers in performance. Obviously it will depend on the type of stainless steel, but it will typically not hold an edge as well as some of the other blade materials.
Nonstainless steels with a carbon content of around 1% are considered carbon steels. Carbon steels don’t use significant amounts of chromium and will often include alloys like manganese and vanadium.
Advantages: Carbon steels are valued for their reasonable price and ability to hold an edge. These are easy to sharpen and can boast a keen edge.
Disadvantages: The major disadvantage is the susceptibility to stains. Even with maintenance, carbon steel blades will undergo a transformation called oxidation. This means the blade will develop a patina, which changes the texture and color of the steel.